The European Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000 ⁄ 60 ⁄ EC) recommends the development of biotic indices for assessing the ecological quality status of water bodies. The Benthic Index based on Taxonomic Sufficiency (BITS) was specifically developed for lagoonal systems, according to the tolerant ⁄ opportunistic approach. Macrobenthic data, variables indicative of eutrophication and variables indicative of sedimentary organic matter quality were collected during 18 surveys carried out between 2004 and 2005 in three Adriatic coastal lagoons (Venice Lagoon, Sacca di Goro, Lesina Lagoon). The relationship between environmental variables and biotic indices (AMBI, BENTIX, BITS, BOPA and FINE) was tested using multivariate analyses. Indices based on species classification level appeared to relate better with the variables describing organic matter quality, whereas BITS, which is based on family classification level, seemed related to eutrophication indicative variables, such as sulphide, ammonium, dissolved oxygen and orthophosphate concentrations. The BITS approach reduces the costs associated with sorting and identification of organisms. Providing a rapid assessment of ecological quality, and producing an ecologically relevant classification, BITS seems a promising tool for monitoring programs of Adriatic lagoonal ecosystems. Its sensitivity in reflecting the field conditions elsewhere, however, remains to be assessed.
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